Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Painted Bird

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I began 1988 doing things I've only dreamt of doing. I was finishing up with the second half of my make-up class downtown, and am happy to say hang-overs kept me away from that class only once. I sometimes literally had to drag myself out the door during some of those sub-zero, dark-oh-so-early nights, onto the train once a week to the loop; always forgetting the closest stop to the school. I repeated in my head over and over: Monroe. Monroe. Marilyn Monroe: glamour, make-up. Why I forgot that every week, I'll never know. It really wasn't too hard for me to get to that class; the teacher loved me, and heaped generous amounts of praise on my tiniest of efforts, and was kind enough, during Contouring 101, to call my alcoholic bloat "baby fat". It was as if she knew what a mess my life was, and was trying to tell me if I focused my energy on my natural talents, that that could carry me to a better place.
I wrangled my roommate Margie into being my model for my final presentation, and the category I chose was, of course, Fashion Forward. I took these pictures at our apartment, after the train ride back home from the loop. I don't remember any 'incidents' on the train, but I do remember her not wanting to wash my creation off, and insisting we go to Berlin that night. Her face is so lovely, the make-up practically put it's self on, and back then I thought every woman should look like 1/3 Boy George, 1/3 Siouxsie, and 1/3 themselves, so it wasn't hard to do. I got an A+.
I spent a lot of time, most every night, at Limelight that entire year, and my salon did another hair show there. The long, laborious process of creating hair styles we deemed cool enough to put on stage was a lot easier this time. I actually don't remember what we did with the hair, and I lost the pictures, but I do remember the clothes. I designed and made them, building them off dark green bustiers: dissected charm bracelets sewn onto pencil skirts, black tulle for days, and laminated images pinned on everywhere.
That's a big reason I loved Limelight so much. They gave me and many others a platform for our creativity by constantly hosting events like this. The hair show inspired me to continue to create clothes and jewelry, and I even had nom de plum: Hellen Hevana. Coincidence? You be the judge.
I made clothes and rearranged vintage finds for a few other 'bazaars' at night clubs, and sold a fair amount. But all that work was getting in the way of partying, so I created less and less, and my salon was going through some big changes.
The rift between my bosses grew ever wider, and Consita and her partners one day decided to go their separate ways. Even though Bob wanted me to stay with him, and promised me a space to sell my clothes and jewelery, and a manager's salary, I went with Consita, because I was wrapped just a little tighter around her finger. Looking back, I made the wrong choice, and I often wonder what my life would be like had I chose door number two, but I guess that's what life is all about: the choices we make.
Plus the fact Theresa and Maria were going with Consita to her new salon, too, made my decision easier.
Theresa (her & I, 1990) had been working with us the past year, and her being an ex-punk and a fellow Wisconsinite made us fast friends. She was tiny and a bit plump, with eyes that were made for heavy black eyeliner. She could be sullen and quiet at work, but could let it rip when we went out. Her and I spent many hours deconstructing Consita's character flaws to the point of uncontrollable, therapeutic laughter, which always ended with the question, Why do we stay here?
A photographer came by the salon one afternoon, wanting to photograph us at work, so he hung out with us for the day and took pictures. It didn't take me too long to figure out he really just wanted to snap Theresa, and mainly shot her. A few months later Theresa came to work with the book he had sent her, and there she was; a whole page of her in the mirror lining her eyes. (I think I just ordered that book on line, and if it's the right one, I'll post the pic.)
My time with my roommates, Margie and Stephanie, was coming to an end (Annie having moved back home a few months before) and I was excited to live by myself for the first time. I would miss the girls, but their lives were pulling them closer to school on the north edge of town, but we promised to keep in touch. Oddly enough, Erin had moved into the very apartment, six years later, Margie had lived in in 1988. It took me a moment, on my first visit to Erin's apartment, to realise this feeling of deja vu was real.
I had many reasons to love living with them, but what I am most grateful for was their exposing me to the world of store front theater in Chicago. Margie was constantly going out to catch as many new shows as she could. I went begrudgingly at first, but soon grew to love it's close quarters, and intimate, charmingly grungy story telling.
Although I complain about Consita a lot, then and now, we did spend time together outside of work, partying, mainly, but we did see a lot of movies. I grew up across the street from a theater in my small hometown, and as a Senior in high school, in small town Arkansas, that's all there was to do. But the movies that made it to these towns were of the blockbuster Hollywood variety, and while I'm not knocking them, they do pale in comparison to the art house films Consita and I discovered together. We would seek them out, and weird Hollywood films that were cool and unusual: Down by Law, Mona Lisa, Withnail and I, Babette's Feast, Dangerous Liaisons, Dead Ringers, D.O.A., Salome's Last Dance, Lair of the Whiteworm, and The Moderns are a few that come to mind. I didn't understand most of these films at the time, but I guess that's why we liked them. We would discuss them, trying to tweeze out some sense or the moral they had to offer, with little result. But these movies looked great, and their recondite stories kept us coming back for more.

I found a cute little studio apartment on Pinegrove and Patterson in the spring of 1988, and I greatly looked forward to my new independent life. But had I known the drama that was to play out in that apartment, and how 1988 would end, I would have left town.

Link: Siouxsie